Driven to Write continues its Geneva walk of shame, and finds some cause for optimism amidst the mainstream behemoths.
The boys at Zuffenhausen have been diligently erasing their previous work in creating a more svelte version 2.0 Panamera, debuting the Sport Turismo, which features a vast 20-litres of additional stowage space. Interesting to see how well judged the business case is with this one. Given that Mercedes’ CLS equivalent has hardly set sales charts alight (and is not being replaced), Porsche management are clearly crossing their fingers and toes here.
Chairman Oliver Blume told awaiting journalists, “The Panamera Sport Turismo is a car that will take you to Nürburgring in the morning, the Eiffel mountains in the afternoon and home on the Autobahn with no problems at all.” What Mr. Blume appears to have ignored is that a clapped out Vectra diesel (estate) could manage that feat.
VW’s more rarefied British outpost was also in expansive mood, with a second showing for the Bentley Speed 6 concept (this time in open two-seater form). The EXP 12 Speed 6e concept to give it its full name is said to prefigure a potential baby brother to the Continental and was shown here with a suggested hybrid drivetrain – not that there was much clear evidence of that. Bentley wants an additional model line, which they feel will secure their business. A second pop at the Geneva cherry suggests however there is still no firm decision on production.
Styling-wise, while the overall form of the thing is less overwrought than the usual Crewe fare, the nose treatment puts this commentator in mind of Toyota’s 1964 Sports 800. This should not infer any slight against the charming Japanese two-seater, but I somehow doubt it featured on Bentley stylist’s mood boards. It’s probably academic anyway, seeing as Bentley can only afford one new model line and with Bentayga sales so buoyant, the no-brain answer is another crossover. Expect a baby Bentagya in a year or three.
And on that subject, proving that vulgar excess isn’t confined to the Mansory’s of this world, Bentley chose Geneva to debut the Bentayga Mulliner, a top-shelf offering from the car maker’s bespoke atelier; described by the British luxury brand as, “the most exquisitely appointed luxury SUV ever created.” I’m bound to admit, upon first setting eyes on this temple to excess I was immediately reminded of this.
Meanwhile it was champagne flutes all round at PSA, flushed with the twin victories of ECOTY and the acquisition of Opel, the French manufacturer’s Citroën division was busy with statements of intent. Chevron-wise the C-Aircross concept gave a (very) broad hint to the C3 Picasso replacement which will probably debut this Autumn. One (conjoined) word: Airbumps.
Over at Distinctive Series towers, the DS7 Crossback was shown in all its reflective vainglory. As the first purpose developed product offering since they broke away from Citroën, this vehicle has the job of re-establishing the DS identity in addition to all the regular duties of a halo model. No small ask this – it had better look and feel truly distinctive. Oh…
DS’ copywriters were understandably more bullish – (or perhaps another word that sounds a bit like bullish) saying; “DS 7 CROSSBACK [their capitals] exudes power and poise through its design. Viewed from the front the vertical grille uses our distinctive DS Wings motif which melds seamlessly into our signature of spectacular lighting. This is an SUV like no other. Full LED rear lights are brighter and safer. Their 3D effect brings DS 7 CROSSBACK’s [their capitals again] rear to life, enriching the car’s appeal. Jewel-like DS Active LED Vision headlamps with LED daytime running lights give DS 7 CROSSBACK [and yet again] a mesmerising appearance.” So there you have it – DS’ USP laid bare. Fancy lighting. Brilliant…
But it would be dispiriting to end on a negative, so praise be for Alpine, Renault’s reanimated performance offshoot. Having lived through a gestation as convoluted as it was lengthy, it could so easily have been watered down into retro-nostalgic irrelevance. Instead, Alpine’s engineers held true to a vision and appear to have produced something genuinely admirable and thoroughly desirable. Lightweight, compact and very pretty, if it carries itself as lightly as its mild retro styling cues, (genuine) enthusiasts could be in for a treat. Jean-Marc Gales take note. To be frank, this delightful little car deserves an article in its own right, so I’ll keep this short. But having hitherto dismissed it as a pointless exercise in revisionism, I’ll happily recant.
Another worthy development stems from even further left of field. For some years now, India’s Tata Motors have been getting on with transforming themselves into a genuine rival to their domestic European and Japanese rivals. Their current lineup of compact saloons, hatchbacks and crossovers look good, and drive at least as well as anything broadly comparable. In this, they’ve had the good sense to enlist the help of others – some known to these pages. But Geneva heralds another phase of Tata’s ambitions. TAMO sees the Indian motor giant reaching beyond mere conveyances into the realm of genuinely desirability. The Racemo is a mid-engined 2-seater broadly similar in size to a Mazda MX5, but powered by a mid-mounted 1.2 litre, 3 cylinder engine with over 180 bhp. With an advanced lightweight composite body structure and with chassis dynamics finessed in the UK by notable experts in the field, Racemo, while unlikely to win many beauty contests sounds very promising indeed.
Perhaps it was ever thus – the truly interesting stories are amongst the outliers. The big boys however keep on ploughing the path of least resistance, but really, what else do we expect from them?